The problem of accuracy
In traditional Indian families, naming a child is a religious duty. The first syllable of the name is chosen according to the position of the Moon at the moment of birth. Astrologers, just by knowing the name and birthdate, could cast a reasonably accurate horoscope. Final corrections can be made by studying the palm and important events in the life, therefore, anyone who was lucky enough to have access to a reputable Jyotishi (astrologer) also had access to reliable predictions.
In the west, we are not so lucky. I was so overwhelmed at the moment of my son’s birth I almost forgot to look at my atomically calibrated watch. About five minutes later, a nurse filling out the birth certificate asked if anyone knew what time it “IS.”
All astrologers worth their weight in sand consider almost any given time, even from a birth certificate, suspicious. Until recently, even technologically modern nations only required births to be recorded to the nearest quarter of an hour.
I have worked with clients whose birth records are unavailable, and have rectified many natal charts with inaccurate birth-times. Rectification, the art of finding the correct birthtime, is a challenging task. Learning this aspect of the craft requires careful instruction and lots of practice, with the emphasis on practice.
Symbolic reasoning, the ability that separates us from the rest of Earth’s animals, is the basis of astrology, math, literature, art, music and science. Physicists, economists, psychologists and other people who need to model and analyze situations have been describing what happens in the world by using symbols for some time. In fact, language itself, both written and spoken, is a symbolic representation of objects and their movement in spacetime. We abstract these symbols metaphorically to describe things and events that cannot be seen or ascribed coordinates. These metaphors are the very basis of thought and emotion, the skeleton of human perception and understanding.
Some Basic Concepts
Virtual astrology not only helps beginners learn faster, but it also helps to build a firm foundation in rectification techniques necessary for intermediate and advanced students. So let’s explore some fundamental ideas and techniques of virtual astrology:
Use the local noon position of the Sun, Moon and planets in constructing a virtual chart. The Moon moves approximately a degree every two hours, so in 12 hours, it moves about 6 degrees. If the noon position of the Moon is more than 7 degrees or less than 23 degrees of any sign, it is certainly in that sign for the entire day.
Whole sign houses work best. In Indian and Hellenistic astrology, mathematically divided houses were used to calculate the ‘strength’ of the planets, and later they were used to define landmarks in primary directions: whole sign houses were originally used for interpretation.
If you have some certainty about the Moon’s sign, use it as the virtual rising sign. In India, transits are judged this way. They count the planets’ changes of sign and direction as well as their velocity, as being more important than the angular distance between them.
Eclipses and planetary stations are the most important transits, especially when they connect with natal planets. To these, the transits of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can be added in order to make surprisingly accurate predictions, and reverse-engineer the position of the Moon in the birth chart.
An aspect is a planetary combination, not a thing in itself. Originally all aspects were called “conjunctions”, and were considered either bodily conjunctions or conjunction by ray. A Ray is a chord marked in the Zodiac that describes a harmonic division of the circle. Ancient astrologers considered only the diametric conjunction (opposition), the square, the trine and the sextile as being places where the planets could testify for or against one another. The opposition and square are more “expressive” – not necessarily bad; while the trines and sextiles are supportive – not necessarily good, because it is the planets that determine the quality of the combination. Mars (competition, irritation, conflict, aggression, energy) or Saturn (delays, obstacles, congestion, pressure, persistence) can bring their qualities into any aspect. Jupiter and Venus, can signal prosperity, harmony and friendship, yet they also show overindulgence, laziness and excesses. Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto can also, when connected with natal planets, provide both opportunities and impediments.
Always watch the motion of the transiting planets, paying careful attention to their speed. Planets approaching conjunctions tell us about the future, while separations speak of the past. If a transiting planet looks like it will aspect a natal position in the future and retrogrades before the transit occurs, it represents a promise that is unfulfilled, or something else that needs to be done before the aspect can “perfect.”
Don’t sweat the small stuff – I have never seen a major prediction work out when its sole indicator is a bi-septile aspect from a transiting asteroid to the prenatal lunation, or anything from a similar hypothetical toolbox.
Some More Ideas
Most astrology students are familiar with the Solar chart, based on equal houses from the Sun’s position, which is usually placed at the “9-O’Clock” position. In the whole sign system, the Sun–sign is the first house, the next sign the second, and so on. Use the noon positions of the planets rounded up to the next whole degree, and you have a chart ready to judge.
Observe the patterns in the chart defined by the triplicities (Fire, Water, Air and Earth) and quadratures (Movable, Fixed and Common qualities): for instance, someone with very little Earth might feel the need to keep their “feet on the ground”. Someone with the majority of planets in the signs of the same quality, say common signs, may have a difficult time during the transit of Mars or Saturn through one of the signs in that Quadrature. An individual with no trines or sextiles might see everything as a challenge, or feel unsupported by others.
Profect the chart: the Zodiac sign is the 1st house for the first year of life (count it as 0), such that the 12th, 24th, 36th etc. years return to that 1st house as the case may be. Remember that the 1st birthday comes at the end of the first year of life, so that the end of the 12th year marks the 12th birthday. If you are a Virgo and the profected Solar or Lunar house is Aquarius, move all of your planets to the 6th sign from themselves. If Jupiter were natally in Cancer, it would profect to Sagittarius that year. These are not aspects. Everything in the horoscope is moving one sign per year.
For Solar charts, the profected Sun sign will describe a major theme for the year, as will the Moon-sign for a Lunar chart. A Pisces year for someone with Sun in Cancer could mean travel or going off to college, but the rest of the chart, including transits and directions, must support this indication. For instance, transiting Saturn’s opposition from Virgo could get in the way.
Use symbolic directions: moving all the planets by a degree per year works very well. Remember that we are using whole degrees: this type of chart is all about meaning, not math. Don’t use degree per year directions for the Moon: if you knew the Moon’s position within a degree, there would be no need for a virtual chart.
Next, look for active eclipses. If eclipses come within five degrees of a planetary position in your chart, they emphasize that planet for some time. Think of that planet as being “clipped” from the life, as Helen Adams Garrett teaches. This clipping can either be for the purpose of saving it, as one would do with a coupon that provides a financial advantage in the future, or to remove it from its place, as in film editing. An eclipse on Uranus in the 11th may “clip” an unpredictable friend from the life, in order to make room for a new associate.
Planetary stations are almost as powerful as eclipses. A station conjunct or aspecting one of your planets within a few degrees will act far more powerfully than other transits. One might say that standard transits are like trying to shake hands with someone on a moving sidewalk going in the other direction, while stations do make that same handshake with someone standing before you on solid ground.
See what the Nodes are doing. The planets transited by the North Node are important because they tell about something being manifested – when the North Node is transited, we are brought together with others described by the transiting planet. If the South Node transits a planet, something is likely to be removed from the life, often to our advantage, even if we have a tough time letting go: the natal South Node being transited can bring about separations. Don’t count anything other than bodily conjunctions when considering the nodes.
Regarding the outer planets, Uranus most often brings something new to the planet or house it touches. It can also break up patterns or structures signified by the planet it is transiting, so it can be destructive – it’s action is almost always surprising or sudden.
Neptune will usually bring confusion or dissolution to the planet or house it connects with, but can be helpful for entertainers, intuitives, ministers, creative artists and politicians.
Pluto is a separative and impolite planet, but it usually works well with Jupiter, where it can remove obstacles to prosperity or success. It’s basic action is transformative.
Don’t presume to use complex or esoteric technique with a chart like this. Stick with basic interpretations of the signs and planets, and let the chart guide you through the analysis. These interpretive tips are enough to get started with virtual charts. Since, as we will see, there are many ways to do them, try the different methods and see where they agree – you’ll rapidly learn to frame amazing predictions.
And Now An Example
Let’s study the chart of supermodel Kate Moss, whose birthtime is unknown, at least to me. She was born, January 16th, 1974 in London. On this day, the Moon was at just under 10° (we will round up to 10° as per traditional practice) Scorpio at noon, and only moved about 12.5 for the entire 24 hour period. Regardless of her birthtime, the Moon could not be much less than 5° or more than 17° of Scorpio, but let’s start with the Solar Chart by making the Sun-sign, Capricorn, the 1st house.
The planetary configurations on her birthday feature an opposition between the Moon and Mars. Even though we don’t know the exact position of the Moon, it cannot be much more than 6° away from its noon position. This is not an unreasonable range for an important aspect like this one.
The Moon/Mars aspect is something I see very often in the charts of successful women in business, and because Mars is in the 7th (partners and relationships) house from the Moon, and square to Venus, the natural planetary indicator of relationships (and in this case, ruler of Taurus, the 7th house from the Moon), there is bound to be instability in the love-life – which her story verifies. Need I mention that the Moon is also the planet of the 7th house from the Sun and the testimony of Mars and the Moon is strengthened by the fact that the Moon is in Mars’ sign?
We could say that this chart is dominated by a T-square that involves 5 of the 7 visible planets, including the Moon. Pluto is also involved because of its trine to Venus. But what’s more important is that transits and eclipses in the fixed signs would make a definite impact on her.
Ms. Moss was discovered at age 14. The profected Solar Ascendant would be in Pisces, and it’s ruler, Jupiter, is with Mercury and Venus in the 2nd (money) house of the Solar birth chart.
The natal Scorpio Moon is in the 9th house of travel from the profected Solar 1st house. Uranus (revelation) moves to the 10th house of career and reputation, and therefore to the 11th (patrons, supporters) from natal Venus (fashion), Mercury (contracts) and Jupiter (luck). She was discovered in an airport while traveling, and Uranus, when connected with Mercury and Jupiter, commonly represents travel by air.
Things really started for her at age 15, in 1989. During that year, Neptune (glamour), Saturn (old conditions) and Uranus (disruption) were all transiting Capricorn, her birth sign. On her birthday transiting Venus was exactly conjunct Saturn and co-transiting with Jupiter. This group transited the natal Moon, rewarding her with work (Saturn), appreciation (Venus) and improvement of her lifestyle (Jupiter-Moon).
Mars was about to return to its natal position, which is a very common time for a career launch or a personal re-invention.
Jupiter was heading into Gemini, the 6th house of the Solar chart, from where it would trine the virtual 10th house, where we find Uranus (new and exciting) and Pluto (transformation); both are lucky for career matters when aspected by Jupiter. Venus, because it is ruler of Libra, is the career planet of the Solar virtual chart. It would also have been aspected by Jupiter once he changed signs.
Aries is the profected rising sign for age 15; therefore the annual 10th (career) house would be Capricorn. Both the Solar Ascendant (by opposition) and natal 10th are aspected by transiting Jupiter during the year: a very favorable indication.
The eclipses of 1988 and 1989 fell along the axis of Virgo and Pisces, where Ms. Moss has no planets. But we see that three of these eclipses occur in the first 10° of this axis: A lunar eclipse of 8/27/88 fell at 5 Pisces, another lunar eclipse on 2/20/89 at 2 Virgo, and a Solar eclipse on 8/31/89 at 8 Virgo. They are all significant, because if we direct Jupiter at a rate of 1° per year from its natal position of 18° Aquarius, in 1989 it would be at 3 Pisces, well within range of these eclipses. There was also a total lunar eclipse on 8/17/1989 at 25 Aquarius. If Venus, the career planet, is directed by the degree-per-year measure, it is found within 2° of this eclipse.
Jumping closer to the current date, the second half of 2005 was difficult for Ms. Moss. A scandal involving cocaine (an industry hazard) caused her to lose several important modeling contracts. Transiting Saturn (tests, obstacles) had just entered Leo (the 8th house of the Solar chart – money that comes through others, cash flow), opposing Mercury (the press), Venus (entertainment) and Jupiter (excesses) in Aquarius, the Solar chart’s 2nd house of money. Transiting Neptune (dissolution, drugs) was also in this house; not a good sign for stability in the areas of money or reputation.
Transiting Jupiter was passing through Libra, the Solar chart’s house of career and reputation, making favorable combinations with the planets in the Solar Chart’s house of money. By her next birthday, Jupiter had aspected three active eclipse points at 20 Aries, 25 Aries and 5 Scorpio. Jupiter’s transit of the natal Moon is generally favorable, and through the support of famous (Moon) and helpful friends (11th house), she landed more contracts than she had before the scandal.
We can be certain that Scorpio is the Moon’s sign, so let’s see what the Mars-Moon opposition square Venus, a central feature of her chart, has to say.
Many people blame her ex–boyfriend (Venus as the planet of the 7th from the Moon, therefore the partner) for the 2005 scandal. He was a known drug-user, and his ex-manager, represented by Saturn in Gemini (Gemini is the 2nd from the 7th, and therefore the support person of the spouse, like the ‘second’ in a duel), sold incriminating pictures to the tabloids.
If we direct Venus, by the measure of a degree/year, we find it at 9 Pisces, in the 5th house of the Lunar Chart (enjoyment and parties), and square to natal Neptune (drugs, addiction). Neptune is in the 2nd house which, according to eastern astrologers, concerns things we consume. While western practitioners generally use Neptune for drugs, Indian astrologers use Rahu, the North Node – both are in this house of the Lunar Virtual Chart.
If we direct Saturn 31°, it opposes Mercury. In the natal chart, Saturn and Mercury are in Mutual Reception (Saturn in Gemini and Mercury in Aquarius) and are both conjunct fixed stars – Betelgeuse and Altair respectively. Saturn with Betelgeuse and Mercury with Altair both predict difficulties in relationships.
Another version of the virtual chart has been taught by Dennis Elwell. He uses the Sun sign as the 5th house, because the Sun is ruler of Leo, the 5th sign of the zodiac.
In Ms. Moss’ Elwell chart, Virgo becomes the rising sign, and makes sense of those eclipses in her discovery year. In the year her career began, transiting Jupiter was in Taurus, and transiting Saturn was in Capricorn. With Virgo as the ascendant, these three positions formed a grand trine in earth signs, a very good omen for material success. Scorpio would have been the profected rising sign for the year, and it contains the natal Moon (popularity and public notice).
In 2005, Aries was this chart’s profected ascendant. Pluto’s (overwhelming force) transit of the last decan of Sagittarius (the 9th house of the profected chart) opposed the natal Saturn (obstacles). Pluto also faced the opposition of Mars (conflict) as it transited Saturn that autumn. This combination is notorious for finding people in the wrong place at the wrong time (Mars/Pluto), resulting in their suffering (Saturn) for their mistakes, or being forced to be responsible (Saturn/Pluto).
Jupiter’s 2007 transit through Sagittarius was somewhat favorable for her, expanding her fashion design business through its opposition to the 10th house of this virtual chart.
Transiting Saturn’s presence in early Virgo opposite Uranus in Pisces could show a sudden break (Saturn/Uranus) in a relationship (7th house) with someone problematic (Saturn rules the 6th house of troublemakers), or a sudden change (Uranus) in her social life (Saturn also rules the 5th). Either way, this transit describes the difficult break-up with her boyfriend. Profecting this chart for 2007 would carry the ascending sign to the 10th house, which is the most public place in the chart.
We can also find interesting information by approximating secondary progression. On the 13th day after birth, which represents the year when she was 13 years old, Venus (harmony) exits the 4th (family) sign from the Moon – her parents divorced.
Venus had been retrograde since her birth, but went direct by progression when she was 28 years old, on the same degree as her natal Sun – her daughter Lila was born this year. During 2005 (the scandal year) progressed Mercury (press) turned retrograde exactly square the midpoint of Sun (reputation) and Uranus (disruption) in the natal chart. As progressed Mercury retrograded out of the midpoint, and as described above, her chart, virtual or not, showed the rescue of her career.
Some methods of virtual charting require slightly more complex calculations. Geodetic charts, for instance, are based on an exact midheaven and ascendant for a given locality, and are amazingly accurate in lieu of a timed birthchart.
Charts can also be made by placing the most expressive planets’ sign as the first house – using the sign of Mercury for an accountant, Mars for a “fighter”, Jupiter for a minister or judge, Saturn for one of reserved temperament and Venus for someone charming.
The point is that the symbols of the signs and planets somehow order themselves into structures that have plenty to say. Don’t try to get too much from these charts, just use them to learn the language of astrology and have a lot of fun. Above all, remember that with virtual astrology, it’s all about the meaning, not the math.